It's quiet here. I have to write a poem about a baby that died. For them. For the baby. For myself. How do you do this? You 'work the earth of your heart', as Kathleen Norris has said.
And still the relentless heat cooks the garden. When I came home last night, I ran to the coop to shut the chickens in, to protect them from raccoons. And I let the dog out, our prancing white poodle pup who brings me all his toys and welcomes me by biting and holding my wrist in his grinning mouth. Dog joy is eternal. I fed the katz, their indignity as having to wait so late for their dinner evident in their yeowling and tail twitching. Then I dragged the hose to the vegetables in the light of the back porch light. New starts of beets and chard seem to be holding their own.
The garbage strike is over. The trucks clank and shudder in the alley by the back yard. For once we're caught up with recycling, no more overfull bins and bags. A new Dead Can Dance plays in the background, electronic with sitars and odd drumming.
I pull myself back to the memory house where my parents, my brother, my grandfather circle and spin. They waver in their ghostly limbs, weeds just under the surface of the lake, barely visible but touching the swimmer's legs.
I build my house on their bones, on memory. My father skating figure eights on Lake Erie far from us, my mother peeling apples for a pie, the long curlicues of apple skin piled on the table, my brother as a little boy, lying before the fireplace, watching the flames. Down the years, my grandfather's suicide sending the message to his descendants, 'here is a doorway, here is the rope, the gun, a way to stop the pain'.
I know I'm lucky. Resilient. I could have been an alcoholic, an addict. Instead I had children who taught me how to love, how to hold on when the darkness came. I thought I was doing it for them but they saved me. My cousin wasn't so lucky. Or Colin. Or Geoffrey.
The mountains save me. The garden saves me. My silly dog reminds me to bark and swim and chase squirrels. The cat waking me in the night so I'll call her to my bed. Midwifery saves me.
Why did I choose to be a midwife? There are hundreds of reasons. And today memories come unbidden; mothers and fathers cradling their beloved babes newly born. Babes they made and praised and waited for. And I witnessed their joy and triumph and tears. And I hold their suffering too, as big as a world. For suffering comes to us all. And it shakes us, it shakes us in our bones.